Jaffna as I see it after 20 years

 By Thampimuttu Poopalan

Born in Malaysia and having spent the rest of my life in Jaffna, having had my entire secondary education at the prestigious Hindu institution, the Jaffna Hindu College, from wherein I matriculated just when I turned sixteen, I joined the Government clerical service and served in 10 government departments including the Medical, General Treasury and Inland Revenue Departments, not to mention the Jaffna Kachcheri during the satyagraha days, I decided to retire under the language concession and did my law and took my oaths as an Attorney-at-Law and Notary Public, in the year 1969.

Having practiced my profession for 14 years in my hometown I moved to Colombo to help my children in their education, since three of my girls had entered the university.

I am stating the above to apprise the readers of my background. In 1983 I moved to Colombo to serve as the Chief Legal Officer of a Group of Companies.

From 1983 till the year 2003 I did not visit Jaffna, except once in the year 1989 when my beloved nephew died prematurely. Thereafter, I remained in exile in Colombo.

I was shocked at the state of affairs in Jaffna after two decades. Through the good offices of my only son who is a medical officer, I was able to go to different parts of Jaffna and see for myself the enormous amount of destruction of houses and places of worship in Jaffna. But, I must concede that some of the prominent temples of Jaffna are improved marvellously, especially the Nallur Kandasamy Kovil in close proximity to wherein I reside.

Frankly, I was a stranger in Jaffna. Most of my close and intimate friends such as V. Dharmalingam ex M.P. for Uduvil, V. Yogeswaran ex M.P. for Jaffna, many of my classmates such as Sivagurunathan Chettiar, T. Senathirajah - one time teacher of Jaffna Hindu College, A. Ramalingam a renowned sportsman and a host of others have disappeared from the face of this earth. In reality I did not come across anyone who greeted me. The stark naked truth is that they have reached their journey's end and a microscopic minority had emigrated to foreign climes. I felt lonely, with no one to converse with me on intelligent subjects. I stayed there from the l0th to the 15th of April and returned to my nest at Easwaran flats-sad and crestfallen.

The purpose of my article is to apprise the public of the enormous damage to dwellings, institutions and valuable buildings by which many people have been rendered homeless. To brand the victims as terrorists to say the best is a travesty of the truth. Some new, lovely buildings have cropped up, obviously from remittances from the victims' kith and kin who are abroad. But amongst them you find the destruction of houses, schools temples and shops. One saving grace is that the market has expanded and things are comparatively cheap and above all pavement stalls displaying lovely items of clothing, ready-made garments and groceries are aplenty.

It grieves me considerably that after 20 long years I must find my hometown in shambles and ruins, of course as usual, the Government sources will say they were by aerial bombing. But it is crystal clear that a good portion of the destruction was by government forces. They speak of rehabilitation, foreign aid has come in plenty but strange to say there is no evidence of substantial rehabilitation.

To those who prate about the peace process including her Excellency the President and the Hon. Prime Minister and his Cabinet, I appeal to them to go there and stay for a month or two (with tight security, of course which they have recourse to even in their home town) and assess the colossal barbaric action and bow their heads in shame, and do hope they sincerely rehabilitate and atone for their misdeeds in the past and expiate for their sins.

For God's sake, I ask the powers that be to spend some time there with all their security.

The Government and their forces must realize that of course they are now seemingly bowing down to international opinion. But are they sincere or is it to get large funds, which will reach their ultimate destination or pass into the hands or pockets of those who probe and preach rehabilitation?

I say it is a shame to say that such human beings have a humanitarian outlook. It is difficult to convert them to adopt a humanitarian approach but let us hope that saner counsel will prevail or is it a forlorn hope?